R v Miller [1983] 2 AC 161, [1983] Crim LR 466

Key point

  • A failure to remove a danger created can amount to actus reus


  • Miller, a vagrant, accidentally set fire to a mattress in a house in which he was sleeping.
  • Rather than taking action to put out the fire, he moved to a different room
  • The fire went on to cause extensive damage to the cost of £800

Held (House of Lords)

  • Miller was guilty of arson under Criminal Damage Act 1971

Lord Diplock

The failure to act constituted actus reus

  • Miller had created a duty to act by creating a dangerous situation
  • His act began from the lighting of the cigarette to place burning down as result
  • ‘I see no rational ground for excluding from conduct capable of giving rise to criminal liability, conduct which consists of failing to take measures that lie within one’s power to counteract a danger that one has oneself created, if at the time of such conduct one’s state of mind is such as constitutes a necessary ingredient of the offence.’

Miller’s recklessness constituted mens rea

  • A reasonable person would be able to anticipate danger from the lighted cigarette
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